George Madgwick, Independent candidate for Portsmouth North gives his answers to the five questions recently submitted by S&C readers to all local candidates in the 2019 election.
We recently asked S&C readers and social media followers what one question you would ask all the candidates in Portsmouth North and South in the General Election. From the many – and diverse – answers we received, we selected five questions, which we sent to all the local candidates.
To choose the top 5, we took into account the number of times questions were asked on each topic, whether questions were suitable for all candidates (i.e. some related to individual candidates, or to either Portsmouth North or South), and whether we have seen the topic or question covered in other local reporting (e.g. we didn’t include a question on Brexit for this reason).
Q1: What amendments would you make to the Gender Recognition Act to advance the rights of trans and non-binary people in the UK, and what steps will you take to ensure all public bodies serving the area comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 as they relate to single sex exemptions?
The Gender Recognition Act of 2004 has still not been fully implemented. The provisions within the act have caused controversy on both sides of the debate. Of more concern is the long outdated Mental Health act of 1983 which allows indefinite detention, incarceration and forced treatment of citizens on the decision of only two people. There is no legal representation or review and no time limit. It is a sad statistic that half of LGBT people (52 per cent) say they’ve experienced depression in the last year. There are many examples of where the Mental Health Act has been used incorrectly to control Transgender people. Our understanding and treatment of Mental Health has changed dramatically since 1983 and a new act incorporating provisions for transgender and non-binary people is long overdue.
Q2: The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently reported that the worst-off 10% of households have lost 7% of their income since 2019, rising to 18% among families with children. The highest earning 10% have seen their incomes fall by 4%. How will your party ensure that the social security system is fair and compassionate, and that the benefit system lifts families out of poverty – closing the vast disparity of income and wealth in our country?
Currently Britain is blessed with low unemployment. There are well paid jobs available for anyone wishing to work. The biggest problem with the social security system is the employment trap which prohibits those wishing to work to be able to cope with the length of time from when the benefits are cut until receiving the first pay check. This is the area which needs to be addressed to help and encourage those wishing to work to be empowered to do so.
Q3: What will you do to help homeless people in Portsmouth, with particular regard to the housing shortage and cuts to services, e.g. for mental health, for trauma survivors, and for people suffering from problematic drug and alcohol use?
Homelessness is usually related to the cost of rented accommodation, and the stigma and barriers attached to people of no fixed abode with a poor credit record and lack of employment. The answer is to provide safe and low rental accommodation for all those who are homeless.
Much good work has been provided by charities such as Stone Pillow which help those who wish to help themselves. The work of all theses charities should be locally co-ordinated and where possible additionally funded by Government.
Q4: Portsmouth residents have told us they are unable to book a GP appointment within 3 weeks, and are referred to a walk-in service, which one resident described as ‘a stressful experience in itself’. What is your plan to improve and protect the NHS? And how will you improve public health in the city, including with regard to mental health and obesity in the city?
The delay in seeing a GP is well reported and sadly there is no quick fix. Training more doctors takes seven years. I would try to implement more spaces to train more doctors as a matter of urgency.
The NHS has six managers for every nurse. This is a bureaucratic imbalance which needs to addressed and the money saved to fund more front line staff. As a start I would propose the return of matrons to directly manage every ward .
Mental Health First Aid England have developed various courses in Mental Health Awareness and Creating Mental Health First Aiders. There is a weekly course run in Portsmouth Guildhall. The course covers eating disorders and how to treat them.
Q5: In terms of both policy and funding, how will you improve support to Portsmouth schools, including meeting the needs of vulnerable children with Special Educational Needs?
Schools have suffered a gradual decline in funding for many years. It is a disgrace that schools are having to fill their funding gaps by asking parents to supply basic equipment and books to educate their children. I would campaign for increased funding for local schools and provision for those children with special needs.
What do you think of George’s answers? Did it help to make up your mind who to vote for?
Don’t forget to compare all the candidates in your area who have submitted answers, and tell us what you think over on Facebook and Twitter.